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Campaigners celebrate after Council throws out quarry plans

[Tuesday 21 February 2006]

Campaigners are celebrating after Councillors reject plans to extend quarrying operations close to an important archaeological site known as the Stonehenge of the North.

Tarmac Northern had wanted to extend gravel extraction operations on its Nosterfield Quarry site at Ladybridge Farm near Masham.

The quarry is close to Thornborough Henges, a site dating back to Neolithic times, and Tarmac's application had caused real concern among locals and the wider archaeological world.

The Henges are considered to be one of the most important and best preserved prehistoric sites in the country, and are made up of three linked earthworks that once formed part of a wider Neolithic ceremonial area.

The Henges themselves are protected and were never under threat as they are classed as scheduled ancient monuments; however the archaeological value of the surrounding area, including the Ladybridge Farm site, was, and remains, a cause of contention between Tarmac and their opponents.

The company funded an investigation that concluded that the Ladybridge site is not of national importance. The report stated that whilst the investigation had discovered a number of prehistoric pits containing pieces of pottery and a number of landscape features, these are in a badly deteriorated condition and lacked environmental potential.

That assertion was hotly disputed by the objectors including English Heritage.

Prior to today's meeting, English Heritage wrote to the County Council stating that: "The minerals planning proposal from Tarmac Northern Ltd will have a clear and negative impact on nationally important archaeology.

"English Heritage believes that the archaeological evaluations have now adequately characterised the deposits within the Ladybridge Farm site and we have no hesitation in asserting that these deposits are of national importance, dating from the Neolithic period and related to the adjacent monument complex and its wider landscape".

Today, despite receiving 80 letters from workers at the Nosterfield site and a petition of 350 signatures, North Yorkshire County Councillors and planning officers agreed and dismissed Tarmac's application in a vote that was split six to three.

The company says it is a "disappointing decision" and is planning to appeal.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Thornborough Henges will be pushing ahead with their plans to establish a visitor centre and "run the site for the benefit of the nation".

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